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Mojave Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Mojave Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Mojave language and culture pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Mojave pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Mojave Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Mojave"? What does it mean? Is the correct spelling "Mojave" or "Mohave"?
Mojave is pronounced "mo-hah-vee." The spelling Mojave comes from Spanish, and the spelling Mohave comes from English. Both are used today, although the tribe officially uses the spelling Mojave. This name is a shortened form of their name for themselves in their own language, Hamakhaave, which means "beside the water."

Where do the Mojaves live?
The Mojave are natives of southwestern Arizona and southeastern California.

How is the Mojave Indian nation organized?
The Mojaves live on two separate reservations. An Indian reservation is land that belongs to a tribe and is under their control. One of these reservations, the Fort Mojave Reservation in Arizona, is only home to Mojave Indians. The other one, the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Arizona and California, is shared by members of several local tribes. Each of these reservations has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Mojaves are also US citizens and must obey American law.

In the past, each Mojave village was ruled by its own chief, who was similar to a mayor. Village chiefs were chosen in religious ceremonies based on the visions they had. Today, the two Mojave tribes are led by tribal councils elected by all the citizens of the tribe.

What language do the Mojave Indians speak?
Almost all Mojave people speak English today, but some of them, especially elders also speak their native Mojave language. Mojave is a complex language with many long words. If you'd like to know a Mojave word that's not too hard to say, "kwichkamaduum" (sounds a little like kwitch-kah-mah-doom) is a friendly greeting in Mojave. You can also read a Mojave picture glossary here.

What was Mojave culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is an article on Mojave history and culture written by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. On this site you can find information about the Mojave people in the past and today.

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How do Mojave Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Mojave children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Mojave people were known as excellent swimmers and runners, and Mojave kids liked to swim in the rivers and compete at footraces. A Mojave mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back. Here is a website with pictures of cradleboards and other Indian cradles.

What were men and women's roles in the Mojave tribe?
Mojave husbands and wives worked together to farm their fields. Men planted and watered the crops, and women harvested them. Mojave women did most of the cooking and child care, and men sometimes went to war to protect their families. Both genders took part in storytelling, music and artwork, and traditional medicine.

What were Mojave homes like in the past?
Mojave people built two different types of houses. Close to the Colorado River, the Mojaves lived in thatched huts raised off the ground with stilts, to protect against summer flooding. Further from the river, Mojave people built sturdier earth lodges, which are made of a wooden frame packed with clay. The thick earth walls kept this kind of house cool in the heat and warm in the cold, making it good shelter in the desert.

Mojave people do not live in these old-fashioned dwellings today, any more than other Americans live in log cabins. Mojave families live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What were Mojave clothes like? Did the Mojaves wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Originally, Mojave people didn't wear much clothing-- men wore only loincloths and women wore knee-length skirts. Shirts were not necessary in Mojave culture, but the Mojaves sometimes wore rabbit-skin robes or ponchos at night when the weather became cooler. After Europeans arrived, the Mojaves began to adapt some Mexican fashions such as cotton blouses and colorful blanket shawls. Unlike most Native American tribes, the Mojaves never wore moccasins. They either went barefoot or wore sandals. Here are some photos and links about Southwest Native American clothing in general.

The Mojaves did not wear war-bonnets like the Plains Indians. Mojave men twisted their hair into hair rolls, which looked a little like dreadlocks. Sometimes they would wind these hair rolls up around their heads or attach eagle feathers to them. Mojave women wore their hair long and straight. The Mojaves wore face tattoos and also painted their faces and bodies for special occasions. They used different colors and patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration. Many Mojave people also painted horizontal white or yellow stripes on their hair.

Today, Mojave people wear modern clothes like jeans instead of loincloths... and they only wear traditional regalia for special occasions like a dance.

What was Mojave transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Mojave Indians weren't coastal people, and rarely traveled by river. Occasionally they used rafts, but more often, they just walked. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe. Once Europeans brought horses to America, the Mojaves could travel more quickly than before.

What was Mojave food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Mojaves were farming people. They planted crops of corn, beans, and pumpkins. Mojave men also hunted rabbits and small game and fished in the rivers, while women gathered nuts, fruits, and herbs. Favorite Mojave recipes included baked beans, hominy, and flat breads made from corn and bean flour. Here is a website with more information about Native American corn.

What were Mojave weapons and tools like in the past?
Mojave hunters used bows and arrows, and fishermen used nets and wooden fish traps. In war, Mojave men fired their bows or fought with clubs or spears. Some Mojave warriors used leather shields to protect themselves from enemy archers. Here is a website with pictures and information about Indian archery and other traditional weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Mojave tribe interact with?
The Mojaves traded regularly with neighboring tribes, particularly Southern California tribes like the Cahuilla and Mission Indians. They especially liked to trade corn and beans for shell beads from the Pacific coast, which they used to make jewelry before glass beads arrived from Europe. The Mojaves also fought wars with some of their neighbors. The Maricopa and Pima tribes were frequent enemies.

What are Mojave arts and crafts like?
Mojave artists are famous for their fine coiled pottery and beaded jewelry. Mojave women were especially known for making intricated beaded collars to wear around their necks. Here is a picture of a Mojave beaded collar.

What kinds of stories do the Mojaves tell?
There are lots of traditional Mojave legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Mojave Indian culture. Here is a Mojave story about the creation of the world. Here's a website where you can read more about Mojave mythology.

What about Mojave religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Mojave life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Mojave people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Mojave religion or this site about Native Indian spirituality in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy And It Is Still That Way, a book of legends from various Arizona Indian tribes including the Mojave tribe. If you want to know more about Mojave culture and history, two good choices are Mojave Native Americans and The Mojave of California and Arizona. You can also browse through our recommendations of books by Indian authors. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Mojave Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Mojaves

Mojave Indian Tribe
An overview of the Mojave people, their language and history.

Mojave Language Resources
Mojave language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Mojave Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Mojave tribe past and present.

Mohave Indian Words
Mojave Indian vocabulary lists.

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